13 January 2008

Creating Customer Evangelists: Another Take

creating_customer_evangelists Here is another take on my previous post. This take on creating customer evangelists is from a marketing web site that can be found here. I think the examples and explanations are better than the web site of the authors.

According to McConnell and Huba, who co-authored the book "Creating Customer Evangelists," the number one indicator of growth is whether a customer would recommend a brand to a friend or colleague. They demonstrate that the best sources of information for customers interested in new products and services is word of mouth.

Customers who make recommendations for such things to their circle of friends and colleagues are considered evangelists -- customers with a true loyalty to a brand.

The authors define loyalty as the willingness of someone -- a customer, an employee, a friend -- to make an investment or personal sacrifice in order to strengthen a relationship.

An evangelist will often take responsibility for the brand's continued success. They will support you, defend you, help you improve your products and services, recruit new customers for you, and spread the word.

So, how does one gain evangelists? The authors list six steps:

1. Customer plus-delta. The point here is to continually gather feedback. One way the authors suggest to do this is by creating a customer advisory board. One business, for example, created such a board, asking select customers to find areas where improvement was needed. Their comments and suggestions resulted in a 30 percent increase in revenue for the company.

McConnell and Huba suggest you make it a voluntary system, but provide the board members with access to leaders and principles, and keep them in the know with what's happening at the company.

2. Napsterize your knowledge -- Make it a point to share knowledge freely -- even if you think it's secret or proprietary. "The value of an idea increases in value as it reaches more people," said McConnell.

Another way to share knowledge is through a blog.

3. Build the buzz. Evangelism is a long-term strategy -- buzz is the fodder that keeps the evangelists talking. To stimulate buzz, the authors suggest disclosing information to those widely connected, go beyond the obvious, make your "behind the scenes' visible and be a little outrageous.

Of course this requires identifying your network and the hubs that supply the most connections.

4. Create community. Don't think of customers as transactions. Think of them as a community of like-minded people. Then, address the community, not the transaction.

Tactics can include creating calendars of events in which your community would be interested.

5. Make bite-size chunks. Do you have a service that is complex? Devise specialized, smaller offerings to get customers to bite. For example, consultants can create workbooks or seminars to provide a piece of what they have to offer.

6. Create a cause. Think about what your organization stands for. How are you trying to change the world?

Every organization can have a cause in which it's passionate.

Among the benefits of a well-defined cause:

  • It embodies a vision
  • It makes people better
  • It generates big effects
  • It catalyzes selfless actions
  • It polarizes effects.

Of course, we are talking about the church, and not a business, but if you read between the lines, I see a few places where these suggestions can help the church accomplish its mission to reach people. Actually, much of this is stuff that the church should have been doing all along.

Let us look at a few examples. One of the purposes of the church is to create community. It is more than Sunday morning, and more than pot lucks.

Or, create a cause. What does the church stand for as the body of Christ. Are we not called to change the world, called to carry the crucified and resurrected Christ to a dying world?

The idea of gathering feedback and sharing knowledge is an area that is tough to work around in the church. If the church sees itself in the country club mentality, then it will offer people a professional wait-staff to take care of their needs. This also means that often the workings and information of the church remains a mystery meat. Most information is not privileged, but we guard it like a government secret.

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